A common theme that i have heard from international companies in Vietnam is where to focus their efforts in preparing ‘High Potentials’ (HiPo’s) for a newly-promoted role. As an Executive Coach, I have supported these HiPo leaders over the years, and I have seen three common focus areas emerge.


As we are promoted through successive roles during our careers, there is a shift in the balance between being operationally and strategically focused. As a junior employee, 100% of our time is focused on operational execution tasks; and through successive promotions of middle, senior and C-suite roles we see an ever-increasing shift to having a more strategic, big-picture focus.

I have found that very few HiPo’s have reflected on this requirement to consciously re-balance focus at each promotional step, and a consistent barrier they communicate is how to find time in the workday for more strategic thinking. In these cases, I work with the HiPo to find the correct balance by mapping current and forecasted workloads, then identifying opportunities to create more time in their workday.


Most individuals that have been identified as HiPo’s are visible within the organisation because they are gregarious and outgoing. They tend to have a large network, are easy to work with and are generally likeable. Hence why they are being fast-tracked in the organisation.

However, whilst they have extensive networks, many fail to recognize that this network needs to be assessed and reset on promotion. In particular, I have found that most HiPos’s under-appreciate the importance of both strong cross-functional relationships and the need to leverage networks at regional/global levels.

When I work with an individual, I ask them to map their current network and then compare it to the network of relationships that they will need to be successful in their future role. I also ask them to critically assess the strength of the required relationships and to develop actions to further strengthen them.


The third, and often the most difficult, theme to address is increasing the exposure of the HiPo to Global Teams. Even amongst some of the largest MNC, I have noticed that very few managers, even when given exposure, actively engage with colleagues outside Vietnam. More so, I have found that there is a real unwillingness amongst managers in Vietnam to take advantage of overseas secondments offered by their organisations.

When asked why they don’t engage with Global Teams, common responses include: “they don’t understand Vietnam”, “they are not important”, and “they just create unnecessary work.”

In this case, I work with the HiPo to understand how to leverage these teams, the influence that the global level may have on future progression within the organisation, and the perception that others may have of the HiPo if they do not actively engage with higher-level teams.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of where a HiPo needs to focus, however, I have found they are common discussions that need to be had to ensure success in future roles. [C]

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Tim Burrill
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